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Shell Eco-marathon

At the Shell Eco-marathon, organized by the energy company Shell, around 450 teams of students are given the opportunity to compete in one of the world’s largest efficiency competitions for vehicles each year.

Young engineers from all over the world participate with their self-made vehicles to cover a certain distance with as little fuel as possible. The competition takes place in various regions of the world. Both in America (Sonoma), in Asia (Singapur) and in Europe (London) where the student teams can compete in different categories.


In the category of prototypes there are hardly any limits for the inventors. However, a maximum height of 1m is set for the vehicles and it may not be longer than 3.5m or wider than 1.3m. The maximum weight in this category is 140kg without driver.

Urban Concept

For the second category – Urban Concept – a vehicle is built that resembles a city car. For them, certain rules and design guidelines apply, which are also important for road traffic: For example, every vehicle must be equipped with side mirrors, a safety belt, roll bar, fire extinguisher, windscreen wiper, luggage compartment and horn.

In addition, the vehicle height must be between 1-1.3m, the total length between 2.2-3.5m and the vehicle width must not exceed 1.3m. Also, the maximum weight is limited – in contrast to the vehicles of the prototype class however on maximally 225kg without driver.

Another special feature of the Urban Concept category competition is that the cars have to stop once at the end of each lap to simulate the real conditions of road traffic.


The drive of the vehicles is left to the students in both categories. In general, however, the engines used can be divided into combustion engines and electric motors.

Different fuels are available for the combustion engines. If an electric motor is used, fuel cells are sometimes used in addition to batteries.

Combustion engines Gasoline
Synthetic Diesel
Electric motor Battery
Hydrogen fuel cell

Autonomous Driving

Since 2018 there has been a competition category for autonomous vehicles in addition to the exclusively consumption-oriented challenges.

Various tasks have to be mastered here: Among other things, the track has to be completed autonomously once. If this is close to the optimum lap time in terms of fuel consumption, bonus points will be awarded. The other tasks such as a slalom parcour and parking require the autonomously driving car especially in terms of finding its way. However, a driver must be seated in the vehicle in order to be able to intervene in an emergency while driving.


In order to be allowed on the track or test track, a vehicle must meet all technical requirements and safety regulations of the event. For this purpose, each team must pass a “Technical Inspection” with its vehicle. If the inspection is successful, the team receives a sticker for the vehicle which confirms the completed inspection and is attached to the car together with the competition number.

If repairs or changes in the paddock are necessary, the teams must bring their own materials and tools. This includes adhesive tape, lifting stands, hearing protection, gloves and goggles. However, if a part or the right tool is missing, cooperation with other teams is also allowed.

Drivers must also observe certain rules for participation in the Shell Eco-marathon. On the one hand, only registered drivers are allowed to drive the vehicle. In addition to the requirements for the driver that allow efficient driving, such as a foresighted driving style to avoid unnecessary changes of direction and the attention to other vehicles, the drivers of the prototype vehicles must weigh at least 50kg and those of the Urban Concept vehicles at least 70kg. If the driver’s weight does not correspond to the minimum weight, additional ballast must be mounted to the car.

All drivers must also wear a fireproof racing suit (one piece) and fireproof gloves. In addition, synthetic clothing must not be worn under the racing suit and a helmet is mandatory to ensure optimum protection in case of an accident. Despite the equipment, as well as the usually very narrow passenger compartments, the driver must be able to get out of the car within 10 seconds for safety reasons. Especially at high temperatures, it is important to ensure that the driver is supplied with sufficient water and that the vehicle is adequately ventilated.